Shelton: Peace and sovereignty go hand in hand with island sustainability

Guam’s path to sovereignty and peace includes producing more locally, trading better, and circularizing the economy, according to Austin Shelton, PhD, Director of the University of Guam Center for Island Sustainability and Sea Grant. 

Shelton mentioned these points in his keynote address at the “Fanhita: Security, Sovereignty, and the Path to Peace” conference recently organized by the Commission on Decolonization. 

He highlighted the island’s significant reliance on imported goods and the urgent need to transition towards a more sustainable and self-reliant future. 

Guam currently imports over 90% of its food and goods, a situation that poses immense challenges in terms of food security, economic stability, and environmental sustainability. Shelton emphasized that the recent Typhoon Mawar served as a stark reminder of the island’s vulnerability due to its overdependence on external resources. 

“When typhoon Mawar hit the island a few months ago, it was a good chance to remember how we used to do all of these things and prepare,” he said. 

To address these challenges and foster a more resilient and sustainable Guam, Shelton outlined a three-pronged approach: producing more locally, trading better, and circularizing. 

Enhancing local food production is crucial for Guam’s food security and economic independence. Shelton highlighted several initiatives undertaken by the Guam Green Growth (G3) Initiative to promote local agriculture and aquaculture, including the partnership with Guahan Sustainable Culture for the community gardens.  

Shelton also mentioned promoting aquaculture and aquaponics systems to increase local seafood production and supporting local farmers through education, technical assistance, and market access opportunities. 

Guam’s strategic location can be leveraged to enhance trade partnerships and negotiate better trade deals, according to Shelton. He cited Singapore as an example of an island nation that has successfully diversified its trade network, ensuring a stable supply of essential goods. 

He also emphasized the importance of political cohesion and collective bargaining power to negotiate fairer trade agreements that benefit Guam’s economy and food security. “We need solidarity and determination to fight for our collective best interests as an island,” he said. 

Adopting circular economy principles can significantly reduce Guam’s reliance on imported goods and minimize waste generation. Shelton advocated for initiatives that promote recycling, waste reduction programs, and encourage the reuse and repurposing of materials. He also supported the development of local industries that utilize recycled materials. 

Shelton said the G3 Conservation Corps plays a pivotal role in preparing the island’s workforce for the emerging green economy. Through hands-on training and education, the program equips participants with the skills and knowledge to pursue careers in agriculture, aquaculture, recycling, and circular economy sectors. 

He said the G3 Conservation Corps has made significant contributions to Guam’s sustainability efforts, including aiding in typhoon recovery efforts after Typhoon Mawar and disaster preparedness initiatives, among others. 

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